An internship is one way to practice your skills, try out an industry or role, and gain experience that will prepare you for your post-graduation career.
But what kind of internship should you pursue? Which internships are best for business students? The best internships are the ones that develop new skills, give you real-world work experience, grow your network, and help you choose a career path. Just because an internship is with a big-name company doesn't mean it's the right one for you. The best internship for someone who wants to be a consultant in New York City won’t be the same as the best internship for someone who wants to be an investment banker in Washington, DC.
Here are the questions to consider when determining if an opportunity is the best one for you.
- What will I get to do at this internship?
- Is this internship in the field I want to be in?
- How will this internship grow my network?
- How does this internship fit with my career goals?
What will I get to do at this internship?
Before you apply, and definitely before you accept an internship opportunity, you’ll want to know what you’ll actually be doing. If you’re working at a small company or start-up, you might be a big fish in a small pond, trying your hand at nearly everything. If you’re working for a large company, you might get to rotate through multiple areas of the business or specialize in a specific department or role.
At Kogod, we’ve found our students most appreciate internships where they’re able to use their classroom knowledge in a variety of real-life scenarios.
“My experience has been amazing since it began last June,” said Josh Wilens, a Kogod student and marketing intern for Fortune 500 company Beacon Building Products. “I’ve been able to expand my knowledge for Kogod courses immensely, and I get to work with a keenly focused, high-performing team. It doesn’t feel like a typical internship because I’m often leading multiple projects from various disciplines, including national campaigns and high-level data analysis.”
Is this internship in the field I want to be in?
For many, the best internships are the ones with the potential to lead directly to full-time jobs after graduation. An internship is a great way for both you and the company to find out if you’re a good fit together. While you may not know for sure if you want to work for a company before you intern there, do you think there’s a strong possibility? Would you want to work for a similar company or elsewhere in the same industry?
At Kogod, a few of the places our students have secured full-time jobs after internships include:
If you’re not sure what field you want to work in after graduation, don’t worry. An internship is a great way to find out if something is—or isn’t— for you.
Related: Co-Op v. Internships. Which is right for you?
How will this internship grow my network?
Internships are about the work you do, but they’re also about the people you meet. The best internships allow you to get to know people who will serve as mentors and future references.
"Your internship is an efficient way to try out a career field and to build skills in a specific function or industry. In addition to demonstrating a strong work ethic and producing high-quality deliverables, the best way to ensure internship success is to invest your time in connecting with your coworkers," says Raina Gandhi, Assistant Dean of Career Services at Kogod. "Conducting an informational interview over coffee or lunch, for example, could result in a better understanding of a certain business area, and while it may not be relevant at the time, this might be a contact you will pursue in the future based on your career trajectory."
How does this internship fit with my career goals?
Your internship experience doesn’t exist in a vacuum — it’s one part of your larger business school journey. You’ll want to think about how all the pieces fit together to build the strongest foundation for your career.
For example, if you’re interested in a career in accounting, you may find that a series of internships at increasingly large firms will get you both the experience and the connections you need. Or, a blend of public and private sector opportunities might make you stand out.
“The professor of my first accounting class offered to help students with applications for an internship at the Securities Exchange Commission. I took her up on the offer, and I got the job,” said Frederick Zaegel, a Kogod finance major who graduated in 2020.
“I had great relationships with my professors, and I was in a city where I was really able to build an impressive resume with unique experiences that I couldn’t have had anywhere else.” Zaegel subsequently interned with United Bank of Switzerland (UBS), where he’s now working full-time. “Since starting with UBS, I’ve passed my Series 7 and Series 66 exams, and I’ve been promoted to a full financial advising position.”
Ultimately, the best internship is one you're excited about — you have the power to squeeze the best out of nearly any internship. And internships aren’t the only way to get hands-on experience. As you build your path throughout business school, consider other hands-on learning opportunities like our entrepreneurship incubator, co-op program, and pro bono consulting projects.
Ready to get started on your internship search? Check out our Guide to Business School Internships.